IN THIS ISSUE
Work on the fourth generation Ford Focus began not with sketches and brainstorms but in sessions with a cognitive psychologist. Not, in this case, stress therapy for the design team but an effort to get inside the heads of future owners.
Consultant Dr Angela Weltman helped the team construct archetypes representing target Focus buyers, explains Amko Leenarts, Ford of Europe design director. “Archetype research is all about digging into customer needs and dreams,” he says. “We start with research, get under the skin of their dreams and ambitions, and that becomes the basis of the design brief. It’s a highly valuable piece of input.”
The notion of a “respected individual” arose during this initial phase: “A customer who is all about doing the right thing, with personal flair,” Leenarts explains. “They are pretty humble, and they want to do good for the world.”
From an exterior perspective, this process led to the idea that the car should command respect, while the interior should be accommodating and safe, Leenarts adds: “We summarised it as the exterior being like a shark and the interior being like Gandhi – very serene and calm.”
Chinese OEM Changan recently spun off a new brand called Oshan, expanding the remit of a name previously applied to a brace of people carriers sold in its home market. Usually written in the Latin alphabet as Oushang, the shorter spelling Oshan appeared in double-spaced capitals across the wheels of the NuAge autonomous concept MPV revealed at April's Beijing motor show.
Changan global design chief Chen Zheng says the new brand's mission will be to provide family oriented cars for the upwardly mobile middle class in China's new cities. The name, wich sounds a little like "ocean", is suggestive of exploration, he adds.
Oshan's aesthetic course has been charted by Jaromir Cech, an RCA graduate who arrived at Changan in 2017 after climbing the design ladder via Skoda, Ford of Europe and Toyota's ED2 studio. He served as the launch design director for the new brand and in April was appointed design director for Changan's European studio in Turin.
“The idea was all about the tech-savvy consumer, and giving them a raw product – as if the brand was distilled into its purest form, but still recognisable as a Geely,” says Guy Burgoyne, vice president and general manager, Geely Design China, explaining what his team aimed to communicate in the Concept Icon project. Unveiled at the Beijing auto show in April, this mid-sized SUV builds on themes seen in last year’s MPV Concept [IM: Autumn 2017] but the Geely design language is further refined and Concept Icon takes on an identity of its own.
"We wanted to make it visually like an icon, hence the blocky upright form, to push away slightly from the crossover trend and back to a more '8-bit' form," says Burgoyne, speaking at the Beijing show. The term 8-bit refers to the rudimentary graphic seen in the early days of computer gaming, where the on-screen palette was limited to 256 colours and subtle transitions were impossible.
“Both surfaces and graphics have been distilled down to their minimalist form, taken to a point beyond which the essence or meaning would be lost,” Burgoyne adds. “Our expanding 'cosmos' grille is still there, but it has taken on a more strict linear form. We see this as a popular movement within those people who love their smart gadgets, the most sophisticated technology wrapped in a simple and pure package. On this canvas, we place individual, exquisitely detailed, products to create a wonderful contrast and delight as you get closer.”
The first generation Ceed was a breakthrough car for Kia, quickly becoming a competitive offering in the fiercly contested European C-segment after its launch in 2006. "It was a good first step for us," recalls Gregory Guillaume, chief designer at Kia Motors Europe. "It showed that we understood the market and customer needs, and that we were serious enaugh about the European market to develop a car specifically for it."
The fisrt generation's plain, upright design was followed in 2012 by a much more flamboyant second generation, created under the design leadership of Peter Schreyer, who took charge of Kia in 2006. "I always felt the first one was lacking on the emotional side; it was a bit cold," says Guillaume, who has now overseen three generations of Ceed (or Cee'd as it was spelled until recently). "With the second generation, we really tried to correct that."
It was, perhaps, an over-correction because the third generation Ceed, unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March, appears closer to the themes of the 2006 car. It has a more restrained exterior design and has returned to a wedge-free, cab-rearward outline.
The new Ceed is 20mm wider and 23mm lower than the second generation. it keeps the same length and wheelabse but the wheels have shifted, yielding 20mm less overhang at the front.
What role does a car company play in the future? Let’s make the question trickier. What role doesa car company play in a future city that doesn’t allow private cars? This, among other questions, is what Renault aimed to explore with the EZ-GO concept, shown in Geneva earlier this year.
At 5.2 metres long, 2.2 wide and 1.6 high, the chosen dimensions are similar to some of the other autonomous concept vehicles we have seen over recent years from brands like Audi and Mercedes. But the ethos behind the EZ-GO, the fole it plays and the way you use it, are all different.
“The EZ-GO was a great challenge,” says Laurens van den Acker, senior vice president of corporate design at Groupe Renault. “The revolution that’s occurring is forcing us to consider new kinds of problems. For instance, how do you move around a city that no longer wants cars?”
Last year, Lincoln introduced its new, updated, flagship sports utility vehicle, the Navigator. That large SUV displayed a more mature and coherent version of the current Lincoln styling cues, which debuted along with the 2016 Lincoln Contionental sedan.
“When the Navigator arrived, Lincoln designers promised future offerings would have a design language that closely followed its lead, although each would have its own distinctive look.
And this year, again at the New York Auto show, Lincoln returned with another SUV, the Aviator. "We call the Aviator a Production Preview, rather than a concept vehicle," notes David Woodhouse, design director at Lincoln. We expect the production Aviator to stay very close to the preview form seen in New York.
Working with trim and materials is one of the most diverse tasks in automotive design. It is rarely about developing a single theme, but applying multiple, parallel and opposing themes, often within the same vehicle: high-tech versus natural, futuristic versus traditional, human versus digital. If there is a strong common thread it is the value of variety: bringing to bear an ever-wider range of colours, materials, techniques and technologies.